A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

3 tips for making a healthier hamburger

How to make a healthy burger

It’s peak burger season. Our expert offers these helpful tips on how you can make your burger healthier while keeping the flavor.

When we think ‘hamburgers’, we may think ‘All-American.’  But the inspiration behind the food can actually be traced back to Hamburg, Germany.

Beef from Hamburg-based cows was chopped and minced with garlic, onions, salt and pepper and made into patties. This delicious meal was originally sold as a hamburg steak and served without a bun. It started out as a gourmet, expensive meal for rich folks in 19th century Germany.

The story goes that German immigrants came to America and were looking to make a living. They started opening restaurants in New York, Boston and along the East Coast and continued the tradition of serving it without the bun.

While origins of the burger are cloudy, one wise soul decided to serve it between two slices of bread to make it easier to eat. Little did they know that their creation would go on to be eaten and loved throughout the world centuries later.

With summer in full swing and many people firing up the grill, it’s peak burger season. Marshfield Clinic Health System Dietitian Chrisanne Urban offers these helpful tips on how you can make your burger healthier while keeping the flavor.

Watch the fat content

When Urban makes burgers with really lean beef, she has found that they don’t taste as good as burgers with a higher fat content. To cut down on fat and keep things tasty, it may be time to mix things up – literally.

Some burger mixing options include:

  • Mixing a third of the burger with sautéed onions and mushrooms.
  • Using some bison or venison meat and mixing those meats in with other higher fat meats.
  • Mixing the beef with cracked bulgar.

“You could replace 20 percent of the meat with cracked bulgar, which is similar to a wheat,” Urban said. “Once you mix it up, refrigerate it overnight.”

  • Mixing with beans, like black beans.

Urban notes that adding drier things may be difficult, since the mix may fall apart easier.

Change up the buns

Wrapping a burger in lettuce leaves can be a smart way to keep things healthier. If you are still looking to use buns, go with a whole wheat bun because that is high in fiber.

“Buns can be high calorie, whether white or wheat,” Urban said. “You have to look at the size of the bun.” She usually goes with a store brand of bun because they tend to be smaller.

Choose the right condiments

Adding on lots of condiments can destroy a burger health wise. One tablespoon of mayo is around 100 calories, while a tablespoon of ketchup or mustard is around 15 calories.

Urban has a tasty and healthier alternative. She recommends cutting up an onion, sprinkling on some pepper, putting it on foil, and then placing it on the grill.

“This cooks it down a little, but helps you still get that flavor,” she said.

Other healthier condiments to consider:

  • A slice of grilled pineapple adds a different flavor. You could buy a can of pineapple that is in its own juice.
  • Avocado is a healthy fat. This could be added in slices or mashed.
  • Lettuce, tomato and pickles also are healthier, popular options.

Urban noted that quantity is key.

“Ask questions like how thick is the cheese? How big is the slice?” Urban said. “You don’t need a lot to get the flavor.”

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